10 things we love and hate about Windows Server 8

The high and low points after spending some time with the Windows Server 8 developer preview release

Windows 8 goes into its first public beta in late February, but we've been working with pre-beta developer release in the lab. Here are our initial impressions, presented, with the caveat that things will certainly change between now and the ultimate ship date, probably in October. Story version.

Love 1: NTFS gets a makeover with ReFS

ReFS, the Resilient File System (NTFS was New Technology File System) is designed to have interesting resiliency from the breakdowns that happen typically to hardware storage systems. It's also RAID-compatible.

Love 2: The Windows 8 Server Hyper-V Switch

Windows 8, when running atop Microsoft's new version of its Hyper-V hypervisor, has a virtual switch designed to enable predictable multitenancy ideals without that pesky VMware or XenServer infrastructure. The switch exerts extended control over both network and storage-over-network traffic.

Love 3: The Hyper-V Extensible Switch has capturing, filtering, and forwarding

Yes, it sounds onerous, but in these days of regulatory compliance and deep need for routing containment, the Hyper-V switch can examine and contain traffic -- and forward it, even as VMs are moved around in a local or multitenant NOC. We don’t know how much latency will be injected, but the switch appliance can be given, like other VMs, priority to "normalize" flows that are subject to its data magnifying glasses.

Love 4: Server Core and Powershell management interface

The Windows GUI has been what many system administrators have grown up with for managing iterative Windows Server editions, but the default now becomes Server Core, a minimalist UI, and much of the day-to-day administrative details can be accomplished via the staggering number of Windows Powershell commandlets. Powershell syntactical consistency makes them easy candidates for scripting, too.

Love 5: Increased file metadata for finer control

The number of metadata characteristics for files has increased with NTFS and ReFS to allow greater control over file and folder objects. Accessibility tags can be manual, automatic, and/or classified by the application or the data type content. This accessibility can be more finely controlled than current NTFS file and folder tags and can be additionally audited.

Hate 1: Windows Server 8 isn't a cloud object (yet)

Microsoft prefers the PaaS model, where the platform is used as the least common denominator in the cloud, rather than IaaS. This means Microsoft continues to own strict controls both in terms of OS payload and perceived maximal licensing costs, and it prevents commoditizing Windows 8 Server licenses. Linux is currently dominating cloud because of reduced license strictures, and the fact that the minimum OS payload can be tiny, yet effective. Microsoft's Windows 8 is still a hulking barge of an operating system.

Hate 2: ReFS isn’t bootable

Imagine a luxurious file system with built-in error recovery techniques from numerous fix-it angles, but you can't boot from it. It reminds us of ZFS, a promised land without the promise.

Hate 3: Microsoft's Windows 8 feature list is fixated on VMware

It seems that Microsoft is using VMware as its metric to introduce comparisons for its Windows Server 8 feature list, when Microsoft's customers were looking for innovation that might even work well with VMware.

Hate 4: Windows Server 8 isn't ported to ARM

There are some juicy, low-power/high-performance servers being made from ARM. Hewlett-Packard has Project Moonshot, and other vendors are starting to support interesting ARM designs. Microsoft now has two code family trees, one for x86/x64, and another for ARM -- but not for server.

Hate 5: It's all spaghetti against the wall

Microsoft took the extraordinary step of releasing a developer perview version of Windows 8 Client and Server to keep the marketplace distracted, and to prevent losing developer and mindshare. Every single item we saw was interesting, but until beta versions arrive, it's all a trial balloon. That  balloon soars high and has cool innovations, but it's really a dream until we go past the developer version, past beta 1, past beta 2, past the release candidate 1, past release candidate 2, past the gold version, past production, to version 1.1, which is the one you’ll be interested in, if you can wait that long.